The Ups and Downs of Middle School Friendships

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By the time a child reaches middle school, friendships have become as important to development as family life. Middle school students crave acceptance from their peers and look to friends to help them navigate through adolescence and everything that comes with it. Friendships make everything more fun and can make even bad days much better.

But friendships at this point in a child's development can also be quite challenging. Below are tips to help you prepare your tween for the ups and downs of friendships in the middle school years. Knowing how friendships may change, come to an end or strengthen can help your tween through the friendship challenges they will eventually face.

Benefits of Healthy Friendships

It's only natural for tweens to make their friends a priority and, at this point in their development, they may prefer the company of their friends over the company of their parents and other family members. This should not be a concern to you, but rather something to enjoy.

Be sure you don't make your child feel guilty for placing such importance on their friendships, it's a normal part of the development and only means that your child is growing their circle of trust to include others outside of the family. Children need a strong network of friends at this age to help deal with life and to have fun while growing up.

Many long-lasting friendships may not only survive middle school, but they may actually grow stronger as shared experiences and common interests are discovered. Even friends who attend different schools or are a grade apart in school may still have enough in common to enjoy one another's company. Strong friendships at the age can have a positive impact on your tween's life. The advantages can include:

  • Dealing with school problems (such as a hard teacher or a school bully) together
  • Enjoying time together after school
  • Getting another point of view when dealing with a problem
  • Having someone stick up for you
  • Having someone to talk to or confide in
  • Keeping one another out of trouble
  • Knowing you're not going it all alone
  • Sharing common interests


As important as friendships are in middle school, that doesn't mean they will always be easy. Many middle schoolers find that their friendships may change during the middle school years as friends drift apart or form other friendships. Middle school students may no longer see old friends as they pursue different interests or passions, or if students attend different schools they may no longer have the opportunity to connect with old friends.

But challenges don't end there. Even strong friendships can be put on trial during the middle school years. Friends may lose their tempers, disappoint one another, or hurt one another's feelings. No friendship is perfect, but many can withstand occasional flare-ups and even learn from them. Encourage your tween to work through conflicts.

Saying, "I'm sorry" can mean a lot at this age, and helps children understand that they are responsible for the way they treat others. Strong friendships may weaken from time to time, but if an effort is made to work through conflict, these friendships will likely survive.

Hallmarks of Real Friends

  • Real friends are not jealous
  • Real friends can be trusted
  • Real friends listen to one another
  • Real friends make an effort
  • Real friends may act like "jerks" some of the time, but they eventually come around
  • Real friends say "I'm sorry"
  • Real friends show respect
  • Real friends support one another
5 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Dickson DJ, Huey M, Laursen B, Kiuru N, Nurmi JE. Parent contributions to friendship stability during the primary school yearsJ Fam Psychol. 2018;32(2):217‐228. doi:10.1037/fam0000388

  3. Rothon C, Head J, Klineberg E, Stansfeld S. Can social support protect bullied adolescents from adverse outcomes? A prospective study on the effects of bullying on the educational achievement and mental health of adolescents at secondary schools in East London. J Adolesc. 2011;34(3):579-88. doi:10.1016/j.adolescence.2010.02.007

  4. Hartl AC, Laursen B, Cillessen AH. A survival analysis of adolescent friendships: The downside of dissimilarity. Psychol Sci. 2015;26(8):1304-15. doi:10.1177/0956797615588751

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By Jennifer O'Donnell
Jennifer O'Donnell holds a BA in English and has training in specific areas regarding tweens, covering parenting for over 8 years.